Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for premature death worldwide. Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Everyone, regardless of age, gender, and ability, can benefit from regular exercise.
Accordingly, the evidence linking better cardiorespiratory fitness to improved health and longevity is overwhelming. In fact, maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness reduces risk of chronic diseases and death more than any pharmaceutical drug. Regular exercise slows down how quickly the body ages, and reduces the risk of cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Exercise and physical fitness training is one of the most powerful anti-aging strategies there is. Exercise powerfully activates a major longevity factor called AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase)—a key regulator of energy metabolism that is linked to longevity.
Emerging research now shows that targeted natural interventions, such as creatine, carnitine, branched chain amino acids, glutamine, and vitamin D, can help maximize the health and longevity benefits of exercise.
How Much Exercise Do I Need?
The most recent report of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, updated in 2018, recommends that healthy adults engage in:
- 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous
aerobic activity per week, or an equivalent combination; and
- Strength or resistance training on two or more days per week.
Children aged three to five should get lots of regular activity each day. Children age 6 to 17 should get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day, including aerobic activity and bone and muscle strengthening activities. Older adults should be as active as their health and abilities allow.
Additional benefits are conferred by engaging in more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Aerobic activity should be spread out throughout the week. It is important to engage in more than one type of exercise. Unless physical capacity is a limiting factor, everyone should engage in aerobic exercises (eg, brisk walking or cycling), strength exercises (eg, lifting weights), flexibility training, and balance exercises.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a training approach that relies on short bursts of anaerobic training followed by recovery periods. While there is compelling evidence that HIIT conveys substantial fitness and health benefits, it may be too extreme for people with pre-existing health conditions. Inexperienced exercisers should consult a trainer or healthcare provider before starting a HIIT program.
Integrative Strategies for Enhancing Exercise
- Hormone restoration for men and women. Studies in healthy older men have shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases exercise capacity and muscle strength. Post-menopausal women using conventional HRT had significantly greater improvements in exercise-induced insulin sensitivity than post-menopausal women who were not using HRT.
- More information is available in the Female Hormone Restoration and Male Hormone Restoration protocols.
- Dietary considerations. Consuming a carbohydrate-containing meal four to six hours before exercise ensures adequate reserves of glycogen (stored carbohydrate energy) in the muscle and liver. The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends protein and carbohydrate consumption within three hours after exercise.
- Caffeine. Studies suggest caffeine ingested before or during exercise enhances endurance exercise performance. For example, competitively trained males who ingested 5 mg/kg body weight, equivalent to two to four cups of coffee for a 170-pound individual, lifted more total weight on the chest press and generated greater anaerobic power.
- Creatine. In older adults, creatine supplementation, with or without resistance exercise, enhances muscle strength and mass, increases bone strength, and slows the rate of muscle mass and strength loss. Creatine doses used in studies typically ranged from 5–21 grams per day for a 150-pound individual.
- L-carnitine. Studies have demonstrated that supplementation with 2 grams of L-carnitine can improve exercise performance and recovery.
- Branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, branched chain amino acid supplementation for three days increased resistance to fatigue and enhanced fat burning for fuel during exhaustive endurance exercise.
- Vitamin D. Sufficient blood levels of vitamin D are important for musculoskeletal injury prevention and recovery, and are associated with reduced inflammation and pain, stronger muscles, and better athletic performance.
- Glutamine. In a controlled two-week trial in male college-aged martial arts athletes, supplementation with 3 grams of glutamine daily for two weeks reduced muscle damage and prevented immune function declines, including during a strenuous training period.